In the fast-paced world of business, networking has become an essential tool for success. Among the various networking strategies, referral networking stands out as a powerful and effective method for generating leads and building valuable business relationships. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of business referral networking, offering tips, strategies, and best practices to help you maximize your B2B referral network in 2023 and beyond. You have questions- we have answers!
Business referral networking is simply building and nurturing business relationships for mutual gain. Businesses are simply a community of humans aligned towards a common mission who get compensated for performance against a specific role. Establishing your B2B business network above all provides you with leverage and it is fun interacting with great people who share common interests. Think of it as the gift that keeps on giving!
Start by identifying your target audience. This involves thinking through professionals who would have the ability and motivation to help you in return for you helping them. Use search tools such as LinkedIn Navigator and the new LinkedIn Portal in ReferMe IQ to help you find the right people at scale. Once you identify the “who” part of the equation, map out how you can personally add value to them including clarifying your B2B value proposition.
The best place to start is to do what it takes to secure a brief “exploratory call” with potential networking partners. It should be short (30 minutes or less), visual (live or virtual with video), and focus on getting to know each other. YoR #1 priority on these calls is to identify opportunities to add value to them to solve a problem or advance an opportunity. Finding synergies is ultimately what you want, but more often than not, you’ll need to start by “giving unconditionally” rather than “getting”. The right partner will jump over themselves to reciprocate.
Frequent contact is the key here. You will want to talk at least quarterly and you should try to make contact at least monthly. This is an overwhelming task for most people so mission critical is securing a technology based system to do the heavy lifting for you. Nurturing B2B relationships is all about building trust, adding value and making sure you demonstrate the right values along the way. The top values of “refer-ability” are to show up on time, do what you say, finish what you start, and say please and thank you. If you are not sure just how referable you may be, take our 2 minute quiz to find out.
By far the most important skill set required is effective communication skills. This means asking the right combination of open and closed questions, developing active listening skills, finding things in common to develop trust, and focusing on them first- not you. It is also critical to stay self aware and “consciously competent” of how your words, tone, and behaviors align with your personal brand – your persona of your “ideal self”. For more information on that, check out a new book, “Don’t wait for Someone Else to Fix it”, by Doug Lennick/Chuck Wachendorfer.
Unlike the past where networking events and face to face contact was the only way to network, the modern world of networking offers a wide variety of technology based platforms that can help. In the end, they all provide you with leverage to keep your business in front of the right people at scale. The 3 most critical to master are social media – especially LinkedIn, referral management software, and properly leveraging your CRM for referrals. No matter what system you choose to use, here are the keys to success. First, make sure your persona and messaging are consistent across all platforms to tell your story as authentically as possible. Second, make sure you have a core referral system that is the central engine that drives all the key behaviors of B2B referral success, integrates with your CRM, and works hand in hand with LinkedIn. For example, our B2B referral software does all the key behaviors for you, you can upload LinkedIn contacts and start email and text campaigns with a push of buttons, it integrates and magnifies the ROI of your CRM and it tracks everything for you including incentive fulfillment. Lastly, make sure you use a digital business card when at networking events. I use BLINQ personally along with my ReferMe IQ application on my smartphone to input names of people I meet to automate follow up campaigns. Easy peasy. No need for business cards and figuring out what to do with them.
It will be very interesting to see how the big wave of all things artificial intelligence will impact the networking world. At the very least, generative AI will help with content and messaging creation. It will also change the game in terms of instantly analyzing relationship engagement data and deploying strategies to “double down” on your most productive relationships. AI should save you lots of time, allow you to scale your B2B referral program faster, and should provide you with a more automated focus on nurturing the right relationships in the right way. Exciting stuff. I am also curious about other technology advances such as blockchain and development of more and more effective virtual platforms that will allow businesses to be in more places in less time supporting more effective communication. How can you best prepare for the new world? Make sure you have all of your relationships organized and grouped into targeted lists in spreadsheets that can be easily uploaded to B2B platforms in popular formats. Start using B2B referral networking technology now – don’t wait. This will allow you to lock into more attractive price points and build a foundation to build upon as these future trends develop – all while allowing you to scale your business faster now.
Referral networking has proven to be a highly effective and sustainable approach to business growth. By establishing a strong network of trusted partners and consistently providing value, you can unlock a world of opportunities. If you haven’t yet, start using B2B referral networking technology to scale faster, save time, focus your networking, and prepare you for the new world of AI and more.
ReferMe IQ™ is passionate about helping organizations build high growth referral-based businesses with their ”state of the art” automated referral platform. Peter S. Velardi is an accomplished senior executive and entrepreneur who has impacted thousands of individuals and organizations to build a fast growing referral based business.
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Post author: Peter S. Velardi